While high-end earbuds proliferate, there’s been a real dearth in the marketplace for earphones that provide good value and good performance while dropping some of the fancier features in favour of an affordable, accessible solution that fits just about any budget. Do the JLab GO Air Tones live up to this promise? Read on to find out!

Specifications of the JLab GO Air Tones earphones

  • 6mm driver
  • Weight: 35g
  • IPTX4 water resistance
  • EQ settings – JLab signature, Balanced, Bass Boost
  • 7 colour options
  • 8 hours playtime (32 hours total charged from case)
  • Bluetooth 5.1 – HSP / HFP / A2DP /AVRCP codecs
  • Frequency response – 20Hz to 20,000Hz
  • USB Type-A charging cable (uniquely built into case)

Unboxing the JLab GO Air Tones earbuds

These earbuds come in a practical, simple cardboard container, with the buds secure in their charging case, a small bit of documentation, and separate pads for different ear sizes (I stuck with the stock medium). The case itself is quite useful, with a plastic-coated USB-A built into the bottom to ensure you always have a cable handy when required (provided, of course, you have access to one of the older style ports).

Colour options for the JLab GO Air Tones

One of the big selling features of this model is the various Pantone shades developed with ORLY Color Labs to match a wide range of skin tones. You can order them in, selecting from seven colours to compliment your style in any way that you wish. It’s a neat gimmick for those that want to have them appear less obtrusive, and it’s certainly a way for the product to stand out in the marketplace. That said, if all they had was a pretty coloured covering to sell there wouldn’t be much point in recommending them for listening, and thankfully they surpassed expectations on that front!

Connecting the JLab Go Air Tones

Pairing via Bluetooth was quite simple, with the earbuds quickly establishing a secure connection without any effort. There’s no formal app to dial in the features of the earbuds like there are for higher-end models, but the advantage is that all features are thus accessible from the touch controls on the earbuds themselves.

For example, you can change between the three EQ settings—signature, balanced, and bass boost—by clicking three times, where a voice assistant will let you know what mode you’re in. Everything from volume control, playback options, and Siri or Google Assistant calling is done with a series of clicks, all laid out in an easy-to-read manual. Even factory reset is done without additional software, where clicking seven times in a row while they’re in the case will set things right if you run into trouble.

Sound quality of the JLab GO Air Tones earphones

Given their modest price point I didn’t have high expectations for the JLab GO Air Tones, but colour me surprised that these colour-coated gems sound great! It’s clear that the transfer of technologies from previous manufactures are trickling down to more consumer-friendly models like these, and only a few years ago devices in this range would have truly egregious sound compared to their higher-market competition. With decent bass, clear mids, and highs that were present but never shrill, these easily could be daily drivers for most users, particularly if you’re listening to podcasts or lower-bandwidth streaming services.

It’s true there’s no fancy codec support, and there’s no noise cancellation options to contend with, but as someone who just wants a good pair of earphones to work primarily as a good pair of earphones, I was quite impressed. The comfort was decent, and while the smooth plastic material doesn’t scream premium quality they managed to stay in my ears without challenge, something that can’t be said for some more premium models. The soft earpads did well to drown out most outside noise, making for decent passive noise suppression. Thanks to being able to play at reasonable volume you can also help drown out outside noises without having to resort to additional electronic means of doing so.

It’s true that the soundstage isn’t massive, and when playing back more challenging material you hear their limitations, but for the majority of casual listening these did an exceptional job. With a generous 8 hour running time between charges (the benefit of no ANC!), these earbuds provide not only a terrific backup for when a fancier set may run out of juice, but would also serve well as an everyday pair for those on the go.

Final thoughts on the JLab GO Air Tones

We have definitely reached the point where the high-end manufacturers are mostly throwing features and functionality over performance into their wireless solutions, making a no-bells-or-whistles model like the JLab GO Air Tones  all the more satisfying. The sound of them is more than adequate for most users, the wide selection of colours a nice way of complimenting with whatever shade you choose, and the price makes them a downright bargain given their capabilities. It’s true that the USB-A option feels a bit out of date, but I love the built-in cable and hope it can be fitted with a USB-C while keeping the similar protective construction.

In the end, these are terrific, affordable earbuds that are perfect as either a spare pair, or even a main set should you not require a bit more musical punch and various other capabilities. Its rare to be so pleasantly surprised by a model, but it’s clear that beyond the cosmetic shade of the exterior, the beauty of the JLab GO Air Tones earphones goes beyond being skin deep.

Jason Gorber, M.A., is a film, technology, and media journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the managing editor and chief film critic at That Shelf and a regular contributor to POV Magazine, SlashFilm, and CBC Radio. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years, is an avid collector of music, movies, LEGO and many other aesthetic and technical treats.

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